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  • Scotland has a variety of large and small ports. As a cruise destination, it offers breathtaking scenery, and great history and culture.
  • The cruise tourism industry has grown year-on-year in Scotland. With almost 900 calls, over 800,000 cruise passengers visited Scotland in 2019.
  • In 2019 and 2020, research was conducted to explore the size of Scotland’s cruise tourism market. This research also reviewed the opportunities and challenges to develop the sector sustainably.
  • The study was jointly commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Government and VisitScotland. The study was delivered by ekosgen.

Cruise tourism in Scotland | Executive summary

Published December 2020

Cruise tourism in Scotland | Final report

Published December 2020

Key statistics


cruise passengers visiting Scotland in 2019


cruise ship calls in Scotland in 2019

£40.6 million

spent directly onshore by passengers and crew in Scotland in 2019

Source: Cruise Tourism in Scotland, ekosgen 2020

1. Executive summary

  • Global and European trends

    There is a general trend for cruises of shorter durations. There's also a trend with a wider range of onshore activities, and a positive passenger experience in the port and its immediate environs.

    Expedition and boutique cruises are emerging as significant niche segments. These vessels are typically much smaller. They provide a luxury offer that can be delivered in destinations in a way that is much more manageable and flexible.

    There has also been a shift away from passengers on mainstream cruise voyages booking guided tours and itineraries. The trend moves to planning a more independent visit at destinations.

  • Calls and passengers

    In 2019, there were 893 cruise ship calls bringing 817,000 passengers. This was an 8% increase in calls from 2018 and a 17% increase from 2017, across all vessel sizes.

    Scotland has five marquee ports (Invergordon, Edinburgh, Kirkwall, Lerwick, and Greenock). These are a gateway to a "must see venue or destination" that plays a key role in attracting customers for a cruise.

    These five marquee ports accounted for almost two thirds (63%) of all Scottish cruise calls, and a much higher proportion (85%) of the passengers in 2019.

    Cruise tourism to Scotland is strongly concentrated in the Highlands and islands. During 2019, these regions had almost three in four (73%) of Scotland’s total cruise calls. They also welcomed 61% of cruise passengers, largely at Kirkwall, Lerwick, and Invergordon.

    Source: Cruise Tourism in Scotland, ekosgen 2020

2. Case studies

Four different ports that have a contrasting experience of cruise tourism were reviewed as part of this research study. These include:

  • Bergen, Norway
  • Juneau, Alaska
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Orkney, Scotland

Cruise tourism in Scotland | Case studies

Published December 2020

3. Methodology

Fieldwork was conducted between September 2019 and March 2020. 102 in-depth telephone interviews were conducted. 291 completed online surveys were received. Further detail on methodology is available within the full report.

4. Additional research resources

Related links